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Berhalter’s First USMNT Roster Released, with some Glaring Absences

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 27: United States midfielder Michael Bradley (4) talks to his teammates in game action during an international friendly match between the United States Men's National Team and Panama on January 27, 2019 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

U.S. Soccer has announced Greg Berhalter’s 24-man United States Men’s National Team roster for March’s upcoming international friendlies. This roster is a mix of talented young players who made impacts during the January camp and older USMNT veterans with experience on the international level. The squad consists of 15 domestic players (MLS) and nine players from abroad (Europe and Mexico). Let’s take a look at the roster:

Some notable exclusions include Tim Weah (PSG/Celtic FC), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Bobby Wood (Hannover), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/ FC Cincinnati), Jonathan Amon (FC Nordsjaelland) and Duane Holmes (Derby County).

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Berhalter admitted in Tuesday’s press conference that selecting a roster was tough and that multiple factors contributed to his player selection, “having to select a 23 or 24-man roster for a camp isn’t easy. All it does is reflect a slice of time.” Berhalter also went on to mention how the quick turnaround between January and March camps affected his personnel choices, “overall, it’s not an easy decision… knowing we have a short window and we wanted continuity”. He added “we wanted to continue to develop our group and continue to evaluate players. That was the most important thing in this March camp.

It seems that major emphasis has been placed on preparing for this summer’s Gold Cup tournament, and that was evident as Berhalter spoke to the media, saying “as we move towards the Gold Cup, we want to have a large pool of players evaluated.” He continued “our goal is to keep making progress; building on the themes of last camp, building on the style of play of the last camp, but also now evaluating a new group of players. We made progress in the first camp and it’s now asking if we can take it to another level. When we are done with this camp, it’s important that we have a good idea of our strongest group of players heading into the Gold Cup.”

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USMNT fans will be excited to see European based players like Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie get their first call-ups of the Berhalter era. When asked about Pulisic’s role on the squad, Berhalter said “in this camp we’re going to look at him as the Number 10, slanted to the left. We played with two Number 10’s last camp; we’re going to do that again.” Berhalter wasn’t as specific regarding Adams role, saying “we know that he can play a number of positions and that flexibility is only going to help the group.” That statement also sounds like it could fit McKennie as well.

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Fans may not be as excited to see USMNT veterans Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream on the roster, but Berhalter maintains their experience and leadership will have positive effects on the squad. “We have been saying all along that we thought it was important to have a veteran presence in the national team.” said Berhalther. He added “I think it’s really important when you talk about history, the heritage and culture of what it means to play for the national team.” Berhalter made mentions of Gonzalez and Ream specifically, saying “in Omar and Tim’s case, they’re both playing at a high level, they’re both playing every week and we thought this would be a good camp to evaluate their performance.”

There were also some surprise omissions to the March roster, most noticeably forward Jozy Altidore, goalkeeper Brad Guzan, wingers Fabian Johnson and Kenny Saief. Talented youngsters Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Jonathan Amon and Djordje Mihailovic were also left off the roster, but for a different reason.

When asked about his management of the player pool, Berhalter made it clear that there was a method to his madness, saying “we had to make decisions for this camp and we looked at the players in a number of different buckets. For example, we have some younger guys that aren’t getting the game time they would have expected and they’re still age-eligible for the Olympics, so we think it’s a great opportunity for them to play two international games with the U-23 team.” This explains the exclusions of Weah, Sargent and Amon; who will be better utilized helping the U.S.A. qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics. I don’t have a problem with this decision considering the USMNT has failed to qualify for the Olympic games since 2008 in Beijing.

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Berhalter went on the say “we have other players that we have evaluated thoroughly in the January camp and we’re going to bring back in the future, but not in this camp. That’s another group. Then we have some guys that are returning from injury and we thought now is not the right time to subject them to the intensity of international soccer and the National Team.” He was referring to Altidore (currently out with injury), Guzan (has struggled recently and probably welcomes the rest) and Saief (joined MLS expansion FC Cincinnati on loan last week and needs training time with new teammates).

Fans may be bummed out about key exclusions to the March roster, but Berhalter made it clear that the door is still open for them to receive future USMNT call-ups, saying “I’ve had a lot of conversations with players not included in this camp and the message is, keep working hard. Keep playing. Keep trying to get on the field for your club and good things will happen.”

The USMNT will host South American sides Ecuador on March 21 at 8:00 PM in Orlando, FL and Chile on March 26 at 9:00 PM in Houston, TX. Both games will be nationally televised.

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